Jimmy Barry Murphy, in his second season of his second term as Cork senior hurling manager, believes that the upcoming league will be very competitive.
“It’s will be very tough with five games coming so close together. We have three of the five away from home. This is always difficult. We have to travel to Galway, Kilkenny and Waterford,” he told The Clare Champion last week.
The former Cork dual All-Ireland medal winner was speaking on the occasion of Cork’s visit to Sixmilebridge for the Waterford Crystal tournament semi-final.
“We have used this tournament as preparation for the league which we are looking forward to.”
The Cork manager is well-versed to speak about what’s involved at this level. He played at the highest level, winning top honours in both hurling and football. As manager, he led Cork to Munster and All-Ireland hurling honours and his decision to return to the manager’s post at the beginning of 2012 sparked off great hopes of a return to the top amongst Leeside hurling fans.
“Let’s be honest, Kilkenny, Galway and Tipperary are the strong teams at this time, they are a bit ahead of the rest of us. We are all aware of that but, in Cork, we are working very, very hard as I am sure Clare and Waterford are. We want to be up there with the rest,” said the former star forward.
“We will be working to improve as we build up for the championship but its such a competitive league. Nobody wants to be relegated and that’s the bottom line and one is always conscious of that,” he said. “The home games are the big ones and you have to try and win those. Everybody is in the same boat. If you don’t you are in trouble.”
The Leeside boss noted “Clare are coming up on the back of an All-Ireland U-21 win and while it doesn’t guarantee success, it is a help. Clare had a great year last year. It was a great achievement to win the All-Ireland and some of their hurling in the final, in particular, was absolutely brilliant. That is something to build on.”
Continuing he said, “we haven’t had that for a number of years but we believe that we have a number of very good young fellas coming though as well. We are hoping to be building up for the championship throughout this campaign.”
He is looking forward to his side’s meeting with Clare.
“It will form part of a double header at Parco Uí Inn (Saturday, March 16, when the Cork footballers will entertain All-Ireland champions Donegal) when there should be a great atmosphere. It will be a good test for both teams as they continue their build up for the championship.”
He stressed that none of the teams in this division can be taken lightly.
“Galway were in the All-Ireland final last year and will want to build on that and go further. Tipperary have a great tradition and have most of those that helped them win the All-Ireland a few seasons back while Waterford have a strong mix of experience and youth. There won’t be any easy games,” he said.
Jimmy Barry singled out Kilkenny for special mention.
“They are massive, they have massive standards, their discipline and their dedication is first class. One thing I have learned about Kilkenny over the years is that they live for the game, they are totally dedicated. They play the way Brian Cody wants them to play and you have got to admire that. They don’t lie back on their laurels,” he concluded
Cork’s league schedule
Saturday February 23, at home to Tipperary
Sunday March 10, away to Waterford
Saturday March 16, at home to Clare
Sunday March 24, away to Galway
Sunday March 31, away to Kilkenny